Who told Centrum officials city supported TIF for mall?

By Mike Anthony

In reviewing recent emails between the owners of Crestwood Court and officials from the city of Crestwood, one sentence caught our attention.

“… We purchased the property only after meeting with city officials and seeing that the city was 100 percent behind a TIF, understanding that it was next to impossible and simply not feasible to develop it otherwise …”

That’s what Sol Barket of Centrum Properties wrote in a June 11 email to Crestwood Mayor Jeff Schlink regarding the proposed redevelopment of the shopping center.

Centrum Properties of Chicago and New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co. purchased the former Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood in March 2008 for $17.5 million.

What’s so provocative about Barket’s email is that no city official — not the mayor, not an individual alderman nor the city administrator — has any authority to promise anyone anything, particularly the use of tax-increment financing, or TIF.

Only the Board of Aldermen — acting collectively by voting to adopt an ordinance — can approve the use of such tax tools as TIF. Given that, we’d be curious to know the identity of the city officials who indicated “the city was 100 percent behind a TIF.”

Even with such a “guarantee,” we’d be hard pressed to believe that Crestwood Court’s owners, with their extensive experience in dealing with government officials, would consider the TIF approval process a formality.

That’s especially true given the information provided in the city’s request for proposals, or RFP, to redevelop Crestwood Court. The RFP states, “The city will consider utilizing the various economic development tools and redevelopment tools at its disposal to stimulate and assist in the redevelopment of the area.”

That certainly doesn’t sound like a “guarantee,” though given the current condition of Crestwood Court, we believe a good case can be made for the use of some of those tools.

But it’s up to the Board of Aldermen collectively to approve the actual amounts if it sees fit to do so.

We agree with Schlink, who wrote in a recent Mayor’s Message: “Don’t be discouraged about the lack of progress these past few months. It is only a few months. Remember, Centrum purchased this property five years ago …”

We believe all of the city’s aldermen want to see the mall redeveloped. It’s just that some are performing the due diligence required to ensure the deal is the best one for the city and its residents.